In the last week, I’ve watched the Teal Pumpkin Project take off. It’s made national headlines. We’ve written about it. Multiple friends have messaged me and posted on my timeline about this project. It’s raising awareness.
And I’m thrilled.
But when I read comments on news stories about the project, I am floored. People are naaaaaasty. About a project that includes kids in a national holiday that has been celebrated for as long as I have been alive (and then some). Really?
Then I stop and realize something: you just haven’t been in our shoes.
It’s really different, looking from the outside in. This is something I learned over the course of the past six years walking a lonely, soul-shattering road of secondary infertility. Through that journey, I learned why it wasn’t quite as easy as I thought to “just be thankful for the one you have.” Or why losing a baby at just six weeks’ gestation was a big, life wrecking deal.
Now I get it. In a way I never got it before. In the deep, gut-wrenching, soul searching way of someone who’s been in those shoes.
So, I kind of get why you “normal families” would like to keep Halloween all about the candy you’re used to. Why we “allergy families” should just hide under a rock during the trick-or-treating hours so all of your normal kids can enjoy life as you knew it when you were growing up.
It’s not that I would ever, in a million years, wish that you would watch your child in the midst of a severe reaction to something they ate and wonder in the deepest part of you if they would live. No. No parent of an allergic child would wish that on anyone—no matter how nasty your comments (not even you who invoke Darwin’s Survival of the Fittest, and oh how I wish I was kidding).
It’s more that, deep inside of me I feel a crushing sadness that you are unwilling to find a way to include a child who had no more of a choice of being born with life threatening allergies than they did the color of their eyes or hair. And now that I think about it, maybe it’s less that you’re unwilling and more that you have such unbridled hatred about it. What did these kids do to you to deserve your hatred?
The statements that I’ve read are so full of vitriol, I just can’t even believe that I live in the same world as you. This is a project that is voluntary to help raise awareness and include kiddos who, for so long have had to switch out their trick-or-treats for the safe candy at home.
There is no requirement for you to join in. But, since you have been so vocal about how this project will ruin Halloween for the rest of you, I want to share with you some thoughts I have about this whole thing.
- My son goes out trick-or-treating because it’s a tradition. He enjoys wearing a costume and running from house to house with his friends collecting treats. Just like you and I did as kids. Remember that? Remember what fun it was? Running between houses. Laughing and joking. Comparing the haul scored from one house to the next. The experience of it was so fun. No, I will not strip my son of that experience because he was born with something he has no control over. Just as I would not expect a child in a wheelchair or with Cystic Fibrosis or Down Syndrome to miss out. NO.
- Every year, at the end of the trick-or-treating night, we go through Z’s candy haul very carefully. He knows that the only candy he will be able to keep are the items for which we can read a label and verify the safety of the food. Yes, we take the responsibility on ourselves. We do not expect you to be the responsible party. It is our job, and it gives Z a chance to work through making excellent life choices of what to keep and what to give away for his safety’s sake.
- The Teal Pumpkin Project was created to include kids with food allergies, but can be extended to all kids. What kid doesn’t like to wear a glow necklace or bracelet when out trick-or-treating? Kids with Diabetes have to be careful of their sugar intake; so offering up non-food items is also a score for them. Trinkets and toys often last far longer than candy, anyway. Most candy scored on Halloween ends up donated or trashed, so what’s the point of fighting for candy if it’s going to end up in the dumpster anyway?
Here’s the deal: the Teal Pumpkin Project is voluntary. If you join in—especially as a member of the “normal” world—we will love you for it. If you don’t—it’s okay. Really.
This is what it boils down to: I don’t expect this of you—none of us do—but I appreciate it more than you know. Because I know that even if you haven’t walked in my shoes and experienced the heart-stopping moments of handling your child’s allergic reactions, you get it. You get it. You understand that we’re all in this crazy world together. And if it wasn’t our food allergies, it might be your child’s ADHD, and if it wasn’t that, it would be something else.
We all have our “thing,” so let’s bind together as a community for each other. That, my friend, is a rare and precious gift in our world today. And I don’t take it lightly; neither should you.
PS. Check out our post about ideas for handling Halloween with food allergies.